The organisers of the Tour de France (ASO) are working hard on finalising the itineraries and the teams taking part in this year's event, starting in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Race director Christian Prudhomme has now promised that he would reveal the identities of the invited teams "in the beginning of spring," just after March 20.
Speaking to French masculin.com in Qatar, another race organised by ASO, Prudhomme said that according to the agreement between ASO and the International Cycling Union (UCI) from September 2008, 16 teams are already certain to participate.
"The agreement is simple: it says that in 2009 and 2010, we have to allow all the teams that held a ProTour license on September 25, 2008," he explained. "Now, Crédit Agricole and Gerolsteiner have ceased to exist, so there are 16 teams that are certain to start in Rotterdam, unless there is a case of serious damage to our image as it happened with Saunier Duval in 2008, which became Fuji-Servetto in 2009. Last year, the Court of Arbitration for Sport gave us the right not to invite it to our races."
These 16 teams are: AG2R-La Mondiale, Française des Jeux, BBox Bouygues Telecom, Cofidis, Omega-Pharma Lotto, Quick Step, Rabobank, Liquigas-Doimo, Lampre-NGC, Astana, Saxo Bank, HTC-Columbia, Caisse d'Epargne, Euskaltel, Milram and Footon-Servetto.
Prudhomme continued by saying that ASO's plans were to allow a total of 22 teams into the race, thus leaving six teams to be determined, and that he had a total of "25 teams" in mind. "Of course, it is logical that some teams seem inevitable to us. I can cite RadioShack as an example," he continued, saying that the organiser's minimum of French riders had been fulfilled and that it was now a question of which teams had the most interesting leaders in their ranks.
On that level, Team Sky (Bradley Wiggins), Katusha (Kim Kirchen), Cervélo (Carlos Sastre and Thor Hushovd), BMC (Cadel Evans) and Garmin-Transitions (Christian Vande Velde) also stand very good chances of a wildcard.
"I can't promise anything," however said Prudhomme. "Some teams stand on an individual and if one of them gets injured and can't participate in the Tour, the presence of the whole team would be less evident. But I don't want to wait too long to announce the selection, out of respect for the riders. It should be done in the beginning of spring."